Yoko Nomura, Ph.D.
Science and Technology Associate
Science and Technology Group
I received my Ph.D. in Human Life Science from Japan Women’s University. I first worked as a postdoctoral fellow and a research associate at Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology (RCAST), the University of Tokyo. I subsequently worked as a research associate (Joshu which is equivalent to Jokyo today) at Tokyo University of Technology. In Japan, my main research interest was biosensing for environmental monitoring since my Ph.D.
I moved from Japan to the United States in 2004 and I started my new research projects in the areas of genetic engineering and synthetic biology with Prof. Yohei Yokobayashi in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at University of California, Davis. I planned and executed a wide variety of experiments (cell culture, cloning, RNA work, etc.,) and analyzed the data as an Associate Project Scientist in the Yokobayashi group. I continue to work as a member of Nucleic Acid Chemistry and Engineering (Yokobayashi) Unit here at OIST to work on the projects. I will also start my own research on natural fibers which is related to my primary background in textile science.
My interests- background, current and future projects
1, Synthetic mammalian riboswitches (Yokobayashi Unit)
I have been developing novel methods to control gene expression in bacterial/mammalian cells by small molecules that bind to specific RNA sequences (RNA aptamers). Along this line of research, I recently designed a novel mammalian riboswitch with high dynamic range and ligand sensitivity by coexpressing two mechanistically distinct riboswitches (Y. Nomura, D. Kumar, Y. Yokobayashi, Chem. Comm., 2012). More recently, we showed that aptamer-fused HDV ribozymes (aptazymes) function in living mammalian cells. We found that these aptazymes are excellent gene expression control elements in response to two small molecules theophylline and guanine (up to 29.5-fold change in gene expression in response to guanine). Additionally, the modularity of the HDV aptazymes was exploited to construct a NOR logic gate device (Y. Nomura, L. Zhou, A. Miu, and Y. Yokobayashi, ACS Synthetic Biology, 2013).
Thus in Yokobayashi Unit I focus on a series of projects to develop small functional RNA sequences such as aptazymes. The common goal of the research is to create new RNA sequences that can function in mammalian cells (S. Kobori, Y. Nomura, A. Miu and Y.Yokobayashi, Nucleic Acids Research, 2015). Also, I think the knowledge gained from these projects will be applicable to biosensing of other interesting molecules.
2, Natural fiber research (silk binding peptide)
Silk is a class of natural fibers, and it is a versatile biomaterial because of its biocompatibility and biodegradability. I have selected several silk-binding peptides from 4×1010 sequences by phage display technology. These peptides may be useful for functionalization of silk for biomedical or other applications. I characterized the selected peptides and identified “QSWS” as a critical motif responsible for binding to silk fibroin fiber (Y. Nomura, V, Sharma, A. Yamamura and Y. Yokobayashi, Biotechnol. Lett., 2011, Academic Federation’s Innovative Developmental Award 2009-2010 at UC Davis). I plan to study the applications of this peptide motif or newly selected peptide motifs at OIST.